Week 32, 2018 | Kristin Kimball | Aug 18, 2018

Big news to share this week. We got the Value Added Producers Grant, the one we thought we definitely were not going to get. Apparently, it was extremely close, but things fell our way at the end. Writing this grant was a years-long effort that came together around the kitchen table over the holidays last winter, fueled by pots of strong tea, with many hours of work from Anne, Jori, Barbara, Deirdre and Nathan. I’m sending this team a lot of gratitude today, along with the many members and friends of the farm who wrote beautiful letters of support for us. I’m convinced those letters were what put us over the goal line.

The grant provides funding over the next three years to create a line of pasteurized dairy products, made with our own grass fed Jersey milk, that will be legal for distribution, transport and sale. I have been gunning for this for about ten years, and the grant will make it possible. It will cover 50% of eligible expenses up to $202,500, including inventory, packaging, training, and payroll. We must match the other 50% using the value of our milk, family labor and cash.

There are a few tricky hoops to jump through yet. First, the grant doesn’t cover the hard stuff, like the equipment, nor a building to put it in. But we knew that going in. We have done our research and will place an order very soon with MicroDairy Designs, an innovative little company in Maryland that sells affordable, small-scale, modular equipment that complies with all 380 pages of the ordinance governing dairy products. No small feat! We need to decide if we will put the new equipment in an actual new building, or into another modified trailer in the barnyard. It is nice to dream of the former, but the latter is more realistic, at least at the start. Now, here’s the hardest hoop of all. We need to produce something edible by October 20th. Given we just got the grant, and the delivery time for the equipment is 10-12 weeks, this is a bit unrealistic. Luckily the USDA will allow us to take our milk to another facility to make into a product, in order to meet the deadline. (The full line of products will be in production here at Essex Farm by March 2019.) So now we are on the search for a dairy plant within a reasonable distance that we could rent for a day per week. Let us know if you have any leads. We’re really grateful to the USDA for this game-changing opportunity, and especially to Gary Pereira and Scott Collins in the USDA Rural Development office for answering approximately three million questions over the last few days. Wish us luck, and stay tuned to hear what our first product will be.

And now I’ve really buried the lede. Senator Chuck Schumer is coming to visit today. We are so honored to host him and look forward showing him what we do here. Coverage of his visit will be on the radio and tv! Check out wamc.org and ncpr.org for the radio story. And for television coverage check out WCAX at 5:30 and 6pm and WPTZ (channel 5) at 5 and 6pm. Also, the first sweet corn is ripe.

We said goodbye to Courtney this week. He is only going up the hill to the Hub, so while we’ll miss him a lot we will still be neighbors and friends. Thank you, dear Courtney, for your good work, kind spirit, and countless delicious lunches. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this dog-days 32nd week of 2018. Like us on FB to see what we post there, or find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Insta and the webat essexfarmcsa, or right here on the farm, any day but Sunday.

–Kristin and Mark Kimball